It’s Christmas Eve, and I am preplexed.
We arrived yesterday in our ancestral home state of Minnesota after a twenty-four hour drive from our current home in New Orleans to see our new grandson; an appropriate meatphor for the season.
Forgoing the Christmas music on CD that had been sountracking the journey, the last hour or so of the drive allowed me to tune in local radio where I caught this rather surprising story, and really had time to think about it in all its absurdity. The excerpts below are from the USAToday story that was being discussed:
“Because Christmas falls on Sunday this year, some churches are opting to close that day so that families can spend the morning together at home.”
My reflexive response was ‘well, that can’t be more than a few churches.’
“…Among the nation’s top 20 largest Protestant churches — as ranked by Outreach Magazine — three will be closed on Christmas, and 10 will be having only one service, The Tennessean reports…”
The story continues…
“Life Research, based in Nashville, says its national survey of Protestant churches found that 91% would hold at least one service Christmas morning, while about 9% will not worship on Sunday at all. Some plan Christmas Eve services instead.”
‘Some plan Christmas Eve services instead’
‘9% will not worship on Sunday at all’
“’Instead?’ ‘Nearly 1-in10 churches will be closed because Christmas is on a Sunday?’ Must be some rationale for all of this” thought I.
There is…if you take the ‘rational’ part of ‘rationale’:
“In Murfreesboro, Tenn., the Rev. Brady Cooper of New Vision Baptist Church notes that it takes 150 volunteers to staff a single service at the megachurch, so he is opting to run five services on Christmas Eve instead, The Tennessean reports.
“Asking them to be there all day Christmas Eve and most of the day on Christmas is hard,” Cooper says. “Our staff is very thankful to have the chance to be home with their family.”
Note to Rev. Cooper and other church ‘leaders’: if you don’t like working on holidays, maybe you shouldn’t choose ministry as a career.
Two primary thoughts come to mind as I read this story, and similar accounts from around the country. (There are a ton; simply go to Google and do a search)
My first thought is, this all strikes me as terribly wrong and short sighted on so many levels.
Stories abound this time of year about how stressful the holidays can be for people, especially those who are at odds with family, who feel disconnected, or who have suffered a loss and cannot find joy in the season – the list goes on.
Many of these people count on their ‘church family’ during this time of year more than any other – I have seen it in every church I have been a part of, in every place I have lived.
“Sorry, we’re closed today. Come back next week” doesn’t cut it.
Secondly, I thought back to all of the emails and Facebook posts I have received from well-meaning fellow Christians over the past few weeks bemoaning a supposed ‘secular attack’ on Christmas.I don’t buy into the ‘attack’ theory; I think it’s more a knee-jerk reaction to specific incidents and speaks more to people’s lack of confidence in their own faith more than it does to people outside the faith attacking it. Plus its just fun for some folks to want to rile up others in the name of their faith. Thats an entirely different post.
I think as Christians, we need to look at ourselves long and hard before we started blame the ‘secular world’ for our shortcomings as a church.
This story only served to confirm both of those beliefs.
But, hey! Not all the churches who will be hanging the ‘CLOSED’ sign this Sunday will leave their congregations high and dry…
“In Colorado, The Longmont Times Call reports that Vinelife Church is offering families devotion packets to have a “church experience” in their homes on Christmas, according to executive pastor Bob Young. Each packet includes a written message from the senior pastor, a CD of Christmas hymns and a suggestion for how to weave the spiritual side of Christmas throughout the day, Young tells the newspaper.”
As a high school English teacher, I am quite familiar with issuing homework, the concepts behind it, and the mixed end-results thereof.
Hey, pastor – will there be a quiz when everyone gets back to class?
I’m not impressed.
Then again, maybe I am looking at this all wrong. This churches-not-being-open-on-Christmas concept might just be the ultimate in teaching from the pulpit.
Just as Mary and Joseph maybe a lot of disenfranchised Christians who are unable to find their own ‘room at the inn’ on Christmas will keep looking, maybe finding a humble stable of their own somewhere else, where they can find some real joy and peace in the real meaning of Christmas.